Understanding the macroeconomic effects of working capital in the United Kingdom

Working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 05 April 2011

Working Paper No. 422
By Emilio Fernandez-Corugedo, Michael McMahon, Stephen Millard and Lukasz Rachel 

The most recent recession has been associated with a financial crisis that led to a large widening of spreads and quantitative restrictions on lending. As well as affecting investment, such a credit contraction is likely to have had a large effect on the working capital positions of UK firms and this, in turn, is likely to have affected the United Kingdom’s supply potential, at least temporarily. However, the role of such disruptions in the business cycle is not well understood. In this paper we first document the behaviour of working capital in the United Kingdom. In order to understand the effects of working capital on macroeconomic variables, we then solve and calibrate a DSGE model that introduces an explicit role for the components of working capital (net cash, inventories, and trade credit). We find that this model produces the standard responses of macroeconomic variables to productivity shocks, but we also find that financial intermediation shocks, similar to those experienced in the United Kingdom post-2007, have persistent negative effects on economic activity; these effects are reinforced by reductions in trade credit. Our model also documents a crucial role for monetary policy to offset such shocks.

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